In sports, repeating a successful season that includes a winning record, a conference championship and a late playoff run can be a strenuous goal for any team.
Doing so when returning from a hectic off-season that included a player lockout only adds to the struggle.
Luckily for the Phoenix Coyotes, the team has a coach on and off the ice.
Seventeen-year Coyote veteran and team captain Shane Doan exuded the persona of head coach Dave Tippett throughout the entire lockout.
From organizing practices to keeping in touch with fellow teammates, Doan took — what could be considered — the franchise into his own hands.
Tippett joined Arizona Sports 620’s Burns & Gambo and talked about the captain and the 2013 season.
“(He’s) an invaluable piece of our organization,” Tippett said of Doan. “He is all on board with everything to move this organization ahead. He is phenomenal.”
Along with the NHL lockout, the Coyotes and their fans had to experience the drama of whether Doan — let alone the team — would remain in Glendale. A free agent, Doan chose to remain with the only NHL franchise he’s ever known at a somewhat discounted rate.
“From a coaching standpoint…there’s very few teams that can have a guy like that in that dressing room,” Tippett said. “That’s why it was so important to bring him back.”
While veterans are important for a team’s development and clique, this year’s Coyotes only bring in three new players in winger Steve Sullivan, center David Moss and winger Nick Johnson.
Tippett expects Sullivan to fill in for Ray Whitney, who the team did not re-sign after he tallied a team-high 77 points.
“Ray had an unbelievable year for us last year,” Tippett said. “We don’t expect Sully to come in and fill that whole void. Hopefully he can mesh with (Martin) Hanzal and (Radim) Vrbata the way Whitney did.”
The return of defenseman Zbynek Michalek will add the to depth of the Coyotes’ blue line, and Tippett says that is just as — if not more — important than the offense.
“He was a key (addition) for us this summer,” Tippett said of Michalek. “In critical situations, when you’re up a goal in the last minute, he’s a guy who plays in all those situations.
“People always look at the offensive guys and think that’s how you win, but there’s critical points in the game where you need those guys that are willing to sacrifice everything to keep the puck out of your net.”
The Coyotes will have a scrimmage Wednesday night in place of practice to prepare for the regular season opener Saturday night against Dallas. The scrimmage is at Jobing.com Arena and is open to the public.
“Hopefully we can get up and going quickly,” Tippett said. “It should be an exciting run.”